Navigation on mobile for free (nearly)

I’ve just realized recently that GoogleMap has an interesting possibility. When looking for directions, you can specify a latitude/longitude location instead of an address. This opens up the possibilty of real time directions on your mobile, linked to your GPS( thanks to J2memap)…
So I’ve quickly implemented this in Version v0.906, thanks to the “here” location in the direction box. If you type or selecet here, your coordinates will be used as a starting point.

Here is an example:


Lost in Paris?

Lets find an hotel

Do I have an issue with “é”?

Let’s find how to go there

Hum…

and follow the sign…

This is GPS navigation for free (except the data costs, that might be huge depending of your operator!)

And my disclaimer: this is an experimental feature, and does not attempt to replace any “real” navigation system!

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Mobile Widget Frenzy: Mobidget is coming

Let me introduce a company where I have some involvement as a technical advisor. This company is called Mobease, and their first product, still in beta, is called mobifindit! It’s a search engine for mobile phones that goes through offline and online content… MobileCrunch already has a positive review here. Mobifindit! will soon reach the 1.0 stage, but the company is working on a second important project named Mobidgets!

Mobidgets is a widgets engine for mobile phone. I will not describe all the features here, first because they are not yet frozen, but also to keep some excitement. I will do it in a later post. But Mobidgets is looking for alpha testers, people who are interested in creating widgets for mobile phones. So, to join the program, we prefer you to be a developer but there’s no need to be an expert! The only constraint is to have a Symbian S60 device 2nd Ed FP2 or FP3. If you are interested, go to Mobidgets.com

And here is a screen shot….Looks nice, no?

Update: a Java MIDP2.0 version is in the pipe too! The Symbian one was only a little bit more advanced than the J2me one. Of course, widgets will be compatible between the two versions, but Symbian provides some features not accessible through Java.
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Opera Widget Strategy: Widgets everywhere….

This interview with Opera CEO gives some hints about Opera strategy in Widget space.

Opera is probably one of the players with the best positioning. Technically, they will benefit from their Opera platform, that contains already some important piece for a widget engine, the rendering engine, a script interpreter. Even better, their proxy technology that allows the transcending “on the fly” of widget from PC to Mobile is also a key benefit.

They also have on of the most deployed browser, so their strategy make sense.

Is this the ultimate solution for widget? I am not convinced, for different raison that I’ve already raised. A widget running on desktop and mobile will be different. Not only for size reason, but for usability reason: keyboard instead of mouse, other input functions, etc…. What will be the easiest path? To create very simple well adapted to different device, or try to create a single app adapted to all device?

I think that some widget could be easily adapted, a clock, or a weather widget are probably things that could be easily scaled to different platforms, but does a “phone book widget” on a mobile will be the same than a “phone book widget” on a PC?

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Waterfall Drives IT Engineer Over the Edge

Another discovery of the blogosphere: Innovation Creators (and at the same time I saw that there was an “Ajax Badge”)…Take a look at this post: Waterfall Drives IT Engineer Over the Edge (full of comics, so a good reading for everybody!).

I saw this happens too frequently (even in a startup!)! As you may know, I am CTO too, and I take the last quote of the blog:

“I do not blame the poor developer who was forced to stick rigidly to “the reqs doc”, but I do blame his CTO.”

As a big promoter of Agile methods, I must agree, but rais some point on why reality is not as easy as it’s described especially when the team started, 6 years ago. Things have changed a little bit since, thanks to the Web1/0 and 2.0 revolutions…But Waterfall has been teach in school, and in “serious” industry as THE method to do software development. Write requirement, than write functional specifications, than write technical specifications, then develop, test, etc… A document nightmare….I am so happy to see the “DRY” (Don’t Repeat YourSelf) concept emerging for software industry

The other issue that makes Agile development not so easy is customer involvement:

  • The customer haves a job to do, so they expect finished tool, and usually don’t like to spend time with unfinished product. They expect the development team to understand their needs, and produce something “good”
  • Development team expects some input from the customer. If his customer does not spend enough time with him, the natural fallback is to tie to the only input he haves, requirement….

There are not excuses not to import agile method, but more things to be aware of…But once things start, things are truly going much faster… It’s nice to see that current generation will be “agile aware”, and will be proud to reuse instead of recreate, to get gratification from his product usage instead of the technical cathedral that hass (not ) been build…

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MySpace security measure disables viral spread of widgets

Does not seems a “big” news, but this may impact a lot some emerging business: apparently, the latest version of Flash (9) allows administrator to disable link to “external” site. This has been used by MySpace to block some outgoing link to services like YouTube…Is MySpace becoming a closed garden?
Read full article: MySpace security measure disables viral spread of widgets

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Nokia E61 and GPS

I’ve just discovered something today, thanks to a user of J2memap: The nokia E61 support the JSR179, but does not have a built in GPS. So it can be only server side localisation. But you also have the ability to pair it with a GPS bluetooth device directly, so JSR179 implementation will use this informations…Smart approach! Unfortunatly the JSR179 provide more limited information than a full access to the GPS device, but that’s probably the price to pay for interoperability.

Ok, the E61 design could have been better, but the screen is really great, especially for this kind of application!

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What is a (mobile) Widget

This is a translation of an article that I wrote for a French blog, about “mobile widgets”. It’s a general introduction and description of the widget, and especially mobile widget concept:

Plusmo So, what is a mobile widget:

A widget is generally speaking a small application, a little bit of code, that does one simple thing but does it well. The second important things about a widget, is that they can be combined together. The last one being the fact that usually, it’s fairly easy to develop a new widget (comparing to developing a full application).

To be able to run a Widget, you need a “Widget Engine”, which is the framework needed to run these micro applications. On the PC, the most popular is Konfabulator, and Dashboard on Mac OS-X. Web applications haves also their own widget, that can run within the browser, like clock, web counter, etc….These applications exists since a long time, it was called previously plugins, components, extensions, gadgets, but the real innovation is that it’s now in user hands: they can combine these widgets to create their own unique application. Typically, the user can choose to have CNN news, Paris weather, a Flicker photo stream, a clock, etc….

This approach fits particularly well on mobile world, where space on screen is limited, and where it’s not easy to switch between applications. Some companies like Widsets, Bluepulse, mFoundry, Bling and Opera have developed some widget engines. Not all of them haves the same approach, even if all of them recognize the filiations with Widget. Most of them are for the moment personal news /RSS reader (Widset) but extremely well done, others allows some interaction with the user (plusmo, mFoundry, etc…). All of these engines -except Opera widget – are for now available on top of J2me. The interest of widget is both for users and developers:

  • For the user, he can create his own application buy choosing and customizing his widget set.
  • For the developer, he can easily develop and deploy application for end user. Of course, not all application can fit into the widget description, but I believe that in the future, a good combination of Web/Ajax based application and Widget will fill 80% of the needs.

I recommend particularly two applications: Plusmo, which is in my mind on of the most interesting one but with a poor UI, and Widsets, which is the opposite: a great UI but the application itself is lacking of maturity. Of course, I am not any more objective as we (Webwag) also have a mobile widget engine.
I believe that Widget will be the equivalent of “Web2.0″ app for mobile: adapted to small screen size, solving in an elegant way the portability issue, providing real interest for the end user it’s certain that this kind of application will become more frequent in the future months.

Of course, there is still a lot of open question: does a “standard” wil emerge (see C.Enrique post
on this)? Can Desktop be reused on mobile? (I think that the question
is more “is there an interest to reuse desktop widget on mobile”).

If now widgets are in most of the case a way to access to some RSS content in an easy way, I believe that their scope will extend to integrate more interactivity with end user, and conquer more space on your phone sceen!

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This is customisation!

Another great pick from Mobiface, about customisation in UI. He is discussing UI of next version of Microsoft Office, which will be “result oriented interface“:

The phone makers can learn a lot from Microsoft: don’t be afraid to make radical interface changes. There’s a limit to small-steps evolution, at some point you have to make a revolution.

So, who’ll be the first to get rid of menus and icon grids?

P.S. Note to phone makers for European market: please, don’t call the ability to change colors in menu “the customizable interface”. THIS IS a customizable interface (UI of Mitsubishi D902iS for NTT DoCoMo).

I can not resist to show some of the UI from this phone:



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